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How to get your child to wear their glasses - the parent's guide to kids glasses

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Girl selecting glasses at optometrist

If your child’s recent optometrist exam shows that he or she needs to wear eyeglasses but doesn't want to, rest assured there is a lot you can do in this situation to help. Most of these things you may never have thought of, but it truly does make the process smoother. As a child, I was in your child's situation, and now I too am a parent of kids with glasses. The good news is that there is a ton of things you can do to make it feel good for your child to wear glasses. Let's get started.

Remember, no child wants to hear the news that he or she needs kids eyeglasses, so the important thing is for you to stay matter-of-fact about it. Look at it from his or her perspective while you put into practice the tips below.

1. Ask a neighbor or relative to relay some positives about glasses to your child

In your child’s mind, you are the one saddling him or her with a pair of eyeglasses. So they won’t want to hear the positives from you, and if they do, they may dismiss it as "something parents would say". This is true even if you yourself wear glasses.

Instead, you should ask another adult: a friend, neighbor or relative to mention to your child one or two positive points about glasses. Yes it’s a bit sneaky but it will make the world of difference to your child. One neighbor said something to me as a child that I’ll never forget and made me feel much better about having children’s glasses. The neighbor said "I had a friend who had to have glasses. She didn’t like the idea of it, but then when she put them on she could see all the things she’d been missing – like the leaves on the trees." And indeed, this was exactly what turned out to be the case for me, so I felt kind of happy that there were positive points that people (other than my parents) knew about. A sporty child for example might like to know that the eyeglasses will help with his or her ability to see better to kick, throw or catch a ball.

If you're wondering whether your child needs glasses

If you yourself are wondering "does my kid really need glasses"? - then if the optometrist has said so, your child probably does really need glasses. But if you have even the slightest doubt, it's perfectly reasonable to get a second opinion from another optometrist at a different practice (not just a different one at the same practice). If both agree your child needs glasses, then it's a true need.

With glasses, your child's difficulties you don't know about will be smoothed away

Your child may be having difficulties in school that you're completely unaware of, which arise from uncorrected vision problems.

For me, I kept getting in trouble for talking in class because I was often asking my friend next to me stuff that I couldn't read! I also struggled to catch and throw balls without vision correction and was often picked last for sports. Once I got glasses, I stopped getting into trouble for talking and I had much better co-ordination because I could actually better see where the ball was coming from at a longer distance.

So you can explain to your child that difficulties that you don't know about (or even that your child isn't aware of as a vision problem since it crept up gradually) will be smoothed away.

So all of this is really good news - for your child, and for yourself as a parent. Let's move on to the next way you can be supportive.

2. Let your child have a choice from more than just a couple of glasses frames

The best thing you can do to help your child accept and wear eyeglasses is to have him or her choose the frames. While for financial reasons you will most likely be able to pick any frame in the store, your child should be able to choose from at least 5 frames that he or she likes. This may mean starting from an initial choice of around 15 or more children’s eyeglasses frames within your budget.

Rest assured you don't need to buy fancy kids designer eyeglasses. There are plenty of great styles at a more affordable price point.

Budget tip: In the US at least, it is usually possible to get your prescription tested at one place and your frames at another; they do not both absolutely have to be done at the same optometrist. So get your child’s prescription tested at a really good optometrist who will really spend proper time with your child doing all the tests.

But when it’s time to purchase children’s frames, if there isn’t sufficient frame selection within your budget at your optometrist, take your completed prescription to a cheaper one for just the frames, to ensure your child has a proper choice.

Usually the optometrist will include a glasses case free of charge when you pick up your new frames. In this case they may let your child pick out a kids glasses case from a selection of two or three, which also helps make it easier for your child to be on board with the eyeglasses.

3. Never lie to your child about his or her vision

For example, do not tell your child that his or her vision might improve, unless of course the optometrist has said this is a possibility. Have your child follow the optometrist’s directions but do not add anything yourself – otherwise you are lying to your child about what is necessary.

For example, if the optometrist says your child needs to wear glasses for situations A, B and C, but not D, then do not make your child wear glasses for situation D! Rest assured your child will have a hard enough time with just A, B and C.

It is surprising how many parents think that being more strict than the optometrist will help their child. This won’t help the child’s vision: if it did, the optometrist would have already instructed it, and you don't want make life more difficult on your child than necessary.

Another thing to avoid is the notion of telling the child that his or her eyesight will get worse if he/she doesn’t do certain things, like wearing glasses at all times of day. Unless this statement is actually true, avoid saying it. It puts a lot of onus and blame on young shoulders that doesn’t need to be there. Some eye conditions won’t be helped or hindered long-term by whether or not the child wears glasses at all times of day. Of course, some vision conditions definitely do depend correct wearing of vision aids to preserve vision, and in that case it is absolutely essential to point this out to your child and do everything you can to give him or her the best possible eyesight for the future. But be very careful to distinguish between these two situations – if in doubt, a quick phone call to your optometrist’s office should be able to get you this information for your child at no cost.

4. Buy your child the most practical reading light

Actions can speak louder than words. The best thing you can do to let your child know you care 100% about their vision is to purchase him or her a new and brighter reading light for their bed and desk. This is not necessarily the lamp which looks the cutest or matches the decor the best. This needn’t be expensive or turn into a drama: most discount retailers sell reading lights cheaply.

The only thing to look for is practicality: a large circle of very bright light. Avoid cutsey little lamp-shade type of lights; these often don’t give as bright of a light nor as large of an area as what is needed. Who cares if the reading light doesn’t match the rest of the room? Your child’s ability to read clearly while resting in bed and while seated at the desk doing homework is a much bigger priority.

Even in cases where the reading light may not actually be medically essential, the fact that you are “meeting your child halfway” will encourage your child to be fully compliant with wearing their glasses. This will make life easier for you and your child.

Consider other areas of the house too; make sure they are bright and well-lit. Remember, soft lighting might seem to you like mood lighting or great ambiance, but to someone with vision impairments it can create stress. If you are unwilling or unable to make the entire house light and bright, then please at least add task lighting for the specific areas of the house your child actually uses for reading, crafts and homework (not just the areas your child should use!)

5. With your optometrist, consider other vision correction aids for certain situations

While there is no need to purchase the whole array of every vision aid out there for your child, do ask the optometrist if there is anything else besides the pair of prescription eyeglasses that your child might later need vision-wise. This is especially relevant to sports and outdoor activities. If your child is a swimmer for example, and has a fairly strong prescription, then prescription swim goggles may really help keep him or her safe in the water. Be certain to mention your child’s sports or activities (e.g. dance) to your optometrist. If your child spends a lot of time outdoors, prescription sunglasses may be a big help for him or her, for example.

Also talk with your child’s optometrist about whether and/or what age your child might benefit from contact lenses. These are all questions your child might wonder about but be too shy or overwhelmed to ask. For now, a pair of eyeglasses might be all your child needs, but keep on top of his or her future vision needs.

The stronger your child’s prescription is, the more he or she may need additional vision aids for activity-specific situations. Speaking from experience, it can actually be very frightening for a child swimming knowing that he or she will be unable recognize friends or family unless they come right up to the child.

6. If your child requests an additional vision aid that you cannot afford, simply say so

Going on from the previous point, if the child requests something that is not strictly necessary, like contact lenses when he or she already has a pair of glasses, if you cannot afford it simply say so and cite the cost as the reason. However, please do not lie to your child and claim that he or she is an unsuitable candidate for lenses (anyway, only an optometrist can make that determination). In other words, do not blame the child’s vision for your inability to provide any extra vision aids. There is absolutely no shame in not being able to afford the optional extras.

However, if the issue is that you can afford it but you choose not to, do make an effort to see the situation from your child’s point of view.

The choice is yours of how to deal with these types of issues.

To sum up, if you cannot afford the cost of an optional vision aid, there is no shame in that. Just be up-front about the reason; please don’t lie to your child or blame him or her.

7. Never make the windshield-wiper joke

This would have to be the lamest joke in history. If you don’t know what this refers to, it’s the one where it’s raining and the child has wet glasses, so someone says "you should have windshield wipers on those glasses!" Some people telling it seem to think this is hilarious – but to the glasses wearer it really is the lamest joke ever because it gets repeated so often.

8. The optometrist is important

Make sure your child adheres to the optometrist’s instruction for vision care. Keep up with your child’s eye exam appointments; don’t be tempted to skip – your child’s prescription may change surprisingly rapidly as he or she grows.

And don’t be afraid to call the optometrist’s office after an appointment if you have questions you forgot to ask. Because the appointments are usually yearly, it is a bit silly to wait until the next year to answer a question that affects the here-and-now. In nearly all cases, the follow-up information you seek about your child’s vision care can be given to you over the phone free of charge.

Conclusion

It's easier than you think to get your child to wear glasses. Most of it involves one-off things and not constant day-to-day work for you. Dealing with your child’s eyeglasses is much harder work for him or her than it is for you. So be supportive and help your child in every way possible. This will make it easier on your child to be compliant with wearing his or her glasses.

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